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In late August, Atome Financial, one of Southeast Asia’s largest buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) companies, filed its financials for 2021. At first glance, the numbers look mighty impressive. 

The consumer-lending arm of Singapore-based artificial intelligence startup Advance Intelligence Group (AIG) Group (AIG) The Ken The B2C engine behind Advance Intelligence Group’s US$2bn valuation Read more  saw its revenue from operations more than double to US$193 million in 2021. What’s more, Atome’s profits nearly tripled to ~US$30 million. 

Five-year-old Atome is the linchpin of AIG’s operations, helping the latter raise over US$400 million at a valuation of US$2 billion from venture-capital behemoth SoftBank and private-equity firm Warburg Pincus in September 2021. As a further sign of its appetite for growth, Atome has secured credit lines of US$500 million and US$100 million from Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC Singapore, respectively. 

Atome operates in nine countries, including India. But Indonesia, where Atome also runs a digital lending service called Kredit Pintar, accounts for 96% of its revenue.

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Ideal market

Indonesia is an ideal market for BNPL service providers, given how rare credit cards are here. Only 2% of the population has credit cards, compared to nearly 50% in Singapore.

Atome’s 2021 financials are particularly striking when seen in the context of global BNPL majors’ struggles struggles The Wall Street Journal Klarna’s Slashed Valuation Creates Losers and a Few Winners Read more . Sweden’s Klarna Bank AB, the US-based Affirm Holdings Inc., and Australia’s Afterpay Ltd are all far from turning a profit. In fact, Klarna’s losses in 2021 doubled to nearly US$490 million US$490 million Bloomberg Klarna’s Debt Costs Rise as Buy-Now-Pay-Later Sector Suffers Read more . And the sector also saw what was possibly the worst valuation slump for a startup since coworking venture WeWork’s epic fall epic fall The Wall Street Journal SoftBank to Boost Stake in WeWork in Deal That Cuts Most Ties With Neumann Read more  in 2019. In July, SoftBank-backed Klarna raised money at $6.7 billion $6.7 billion The Wall Street Journal Klarna’s Slashed Valuation Creates Losers and a Few Winners Read more —a far cry from the nearly US$46 billion it was worth in 2021.

AUTHOR

Gaurav Tyagi

Gaurav covers the money trail around everything startups and internet economy. A graduate from the University of Delhi, he joined Institute of Chartered Accountants of India before finding his way to research and journalism. Apart from being a petrolhead, he pretends to be Ari Gold on weekends.

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